Rondo residents to help shape Gordon Parks memorial

This Saturday at the annual Rondo Days celebration, attendees will be asked to share their ideas for a planned future Gordon Parks memorial in downtown St. Paul.

Self-portrait by Gordon Parks

Parks was a renaissance man — a gifted author, composer and filmmaker — but he’s best remembered for his photography for LIFE magazine.

He got his start at the former Frank Murphy clothing store in downtown St. Paul. His biography, “A Choice of Weaponswas chosen for last year’s One Minneapolis One Read.

Parks’ name is already on a St. Paul high school, and a college gallery. His great-niece Robin Patricia Hickman is spearheading the effort to honor him with a permanent public landmark.

Forecast Public Art Executive Director Jack Becker says Hickman contacted him to find a sculptor who could do her great uncle’s image justice. But he encouraged to think beyond the traditional memorial statue.

“Ever since Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the whole notion of memorial-making has changed,” Becker said, “and it’s a wide open field that’s open to all sorts of possibilities now, which is what makes this so exciting.”

At Rondo Days, attendees will get to talk to Parks’ family members about his life and legacy and share their own ideas for the memorial in interviews and surveys.

The Gordon Parks memorial site is planned for the Landmark Plaza, near the site of the old Frank Murphy store and the Saint Paul Hotel, where he also worked.